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Script Review: Angels & Demons

Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor

A casual fan of Dan Brown’s first Robert Langdon novel approves of its screenplay.

ImageSo a friend of mine recommends the Dan Brown bestselling novel, Angels and Demons, and I say, sure, ok, all I’ve been reading is rock star tell-alls and crime fiction, this’ll be a nice change. Everyone knows Dan Brown, worldly famous for another one of his books, The Da Vinci Code, from which they made a pretty successful movie, with Tom Hanks. Haven’t read that one, or seen the film. I get a copy of A&D, and whip through it.

And you know what? I liked it.

Taking place mainly in Rome (can’t go wrong with that), it’s a mystery, a whodunit, full of brutal murders and arcane history, fun for all ages. I hear they’re making a movie of it. Nice, I think. Like to see that.

But then I get to see something else first, a script. Of A&D.

Now, there’s often a problem in checking out a script of a book you’ve already read and liked. You know there are going to be omissions, changes, and if history serves, almost ALWAYS to the story’s detriment. Understanding that, you attempt to have an open mind, and think cinematically, cutting the filmmakers some slack.

Akiva Goldsman, with help from David Koepp, pulls it off. Normally you’re only as good as your source material, and Goldsman wisely stays close to it, retaining the flavor and dramatic push of the novel. Using Rome (second-greatest city on earth, behind NYC, natch) as a character in itself, we follow American professor Robert Langdon as he tries to put together an intricate historical puzzle, centering on the Vatican and a sinister underground organization called the “Illuminati.”

Seems someone has kidnapped four Catholic Cardinals, and plans to kill them dead, one by one. There’s also the small matter of a device being placed inside the Vatican, which is counting down the minutes till it goes off, and the search for it. Oh yeah. And the Pope just died. Murdered, perhaps? Will Langdon and co. save the Cardinals? Will the device explode and take Rome with it?

As they search for clues here there and everywhere, tear around the streets in Alfa-Romeos following trails pointed out by centuries-old statues, it’s the city that stars in this story. I can’t wait to see this Rome, to go to these locales, whether it be inside the Vatican, or down in the catacombs, or to various churches and holy places. It’s a fun ride, energetic and suspenseful, and the characters are more engaging than you would expect, with Langdon as the scoffed-at American who saves the day, to Vittoria, as the scientist/love interest, to the Camerlengo, the acting Pope, who may have his own personal plans for them all.

A few things about the screenplay, though, stuck out. The first thing was good. They removed a preposterous bit at the end of the book where Langdon survives jumping out of a helicopter by using a blanket as a parachute. Nice call. They did, however, make a misstep in changing the nature of the killer from a more devout disciple-type to a standard gun for hire. This relegates the assassin to caricature status, not nearly as complicated and frightening as he was in the book. They also, oddly, cut the part where Langdon rushes to save Vittoria, the ole’ damsel-in-distress bit, which actually worked well in the novel, allowing for a climatic showdown. Now, as to why a certain main character does what he does, and it’s central to the story, here the book and screenplay match completely. I read the book. I read the screenplay. I have no clue. Hopefully Dan Brown knows. Guess I could ask him.

Angels and Demons started as a good novel, has become a good screenplay, and hopefully, will be a good film. Interesting, entertaining, mildly convoluted and scenic, it’s just like the city it takes place in.